The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #103 - 1 msg

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

This is an automated compilation of submissions to

Articles for inclusion in this daily news mailing should be sent to 
Please include a full reference to the source of the article.

Today's Topics:

   1. Signs of a Looted Iraq (Hassan)


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 30 May 2004 07:45:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: Signs of a Looted Iraq
To: CASI newsclippings <>,
  IAC discussion <>

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

In the Scrapyards of Jordan, Signs of a Looted Iraq

Published: May 28, 2004

AHAB, Jordan, May 26 =97 As the United States spends billions of dollars to=
 rebuild Iraq's civil and military infrastructure, there is increasing evid=
ence that parts of sensitive military equipment, seemingly brand-new compon=
ents for oil rigs and water plants and whole complexes of older buildings a=
re leaving the country on the backs of flatbed trucks

By some estimates, at least 100 semitrailers loaded with what is billed as =
Iraqi scrap metal are streaming each day into Jordan, just one of six count=
ries that share a border with Iraq.

American officials say sensitive equipment is, in fact, closely monitored a=
nd much of the rest that is leaving is legitimate removal and sale from a s=
hattered country. But many experts say that much of what is going on amount=
s to a vast looting operation.

In the past several months, the International Atomic Energy Agency, based i=
n Vienna, has been closely monitoring satellite photographs of hundreds of =
military-industrial sites in Iraq. Initial results from that analysis are j=
arring, said Jacques Baute, director of the agency's Iraq nuclear verificat=
ion office: entire buildings and complexes of as many as a dozen buildings =
have been vanishing from the photographs.

"We see sites that have totally been cleaned out," Mr. Baute said.

The agency started the program in December, after a steel vessel contaminat=
ed with uranium, probably an artifact of Saddam Hussein's pre-1991 nuclear =
program, turned up in a Rotterdam scrapyard. The shipment was traced to a J=
ordanian company that was apparently unaware that the scrap contained radio=
active material.

In the last several weeks, Jordan has again caught the attention of interna=
tional officials, as pieces of Iraqi metal bearing tags put in place by the=
 United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, establi=
shed to monitor Iraqi disarmament during Mr. Hussein's rule, have been spot=
ted in Jordanian scrapyards. The observation of items tagged by the commiss=
ion, known as Unmovic, has not been previously disclosed.

"Unmovic has been investigating the removal from Iraq of materials that may=
 have been subject to monitoring, and that investigation is ongoing," said =
Jeff Allen, a spokesman for the commission. "So we've been aware of the iss=
ue," he said. "We've been apprised of the details of the Rotterdam incident=
 and have been in touch with Jordanian officials."

Recent examinations of Jordanian scrapyards, including by a reporter for Th=
e New York Times, have turned up an astounding quantity of scrap metal and =
new components from Iraq's civil infrastructure, including piles of valuabl=
e copper and aluminum ingots and bars, large stacks of steel rods and water=
 pipe and giant flanges for oil equipment =97 all in nearly mint condition =
=97 as well as chopped-up railroad boxcars, huge numbers of shattered Iraqi=
 tanks and even beer kegs marked with the words "Iraqi Brewery."

"There is a gigantic salvage operation, stripping anything of perceived val=
ue out of the country," said John Hamre, president and chief executive of t=
he Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington=
 research institute, which sent a team to Iraq and issued a report on recon=
struction efforts at the request of the Pentagon last July.

"This is systematically plundering the country," Dr. Hamre said. "You're go=
ing to have to replace all of this stuff."

The United States contends that the prodigious Middle Eastern trade in Iraq=
i scrap metal is closely monitored by Iraqi government ministries to ensure=
 that nothing crossing the border poses a security risk or siphons material=
 from new projects. In April, L. Paul Bremer III, the occupation's senior o=
fficial in Iraq, and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade established rules for lice=
nsing the export of scrap metal from the country.

The sites now being monitored by the atomic energy agency include former mi=
ssile factories, warehouses, industrial plants and sites believed to contai=
n "dual use" equipment like high-precision machine tools that could be used=
 either for civilian purposes or for making components for nuclear and othe=
r weaponry. Mr. Baute said that the analysis had been completed at about a =
dozen sites and that the agency was working to prepare a report on the enti=
re monitoring program.

Sam Whitfield, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, said th=
at penalties for not obtaining a license or abiding by its terms were sever=
e for a trucker. "If he does not have it or is found to be exporting scrap =
illegally, not only can his load be seized but his truck can be seized," he=

Mr. Whitfield said that the overall quantity of scrap might not be surprisi=
ng, considering that there were, for example, an estimated 3,000 damaged ta=
nks and other military vehicles in Iraq as a result of a series of wars. Th=
ose vehicles are being legitimately scrapped, he said.

"There's huge volumes of scrap out there, just all over Iraq," he said.

A senior American intelligence official said the idea that the material to =
build missiles or nuclear devices might be being exported from the military=
-industrial sites was "far-fetched."

"It's conceivable that some of this material might be dual-use in nature," =
the official said, adding that "what appears to be happening is simply loot=

Mr. Whitfield asserted that the coalition had put a stop to widespread loot=
ing in Iraq. But a visit to an enormous scrapyard on the side of a dusty hi=
ll surrounded by goat herds in this town about 10 miles southeast of Amman =
raises serious questions about that assertion. Cranes and men with torches =
pick through seemingly endless piles of steel, aluminum and copper that wor=
kers there say has come almost exclusively from Iraq.

On a recent afternoon, roughly 100 trucks, many with yellow Iraqi license p=
lates, were lined up near the entrance to the scrapyard or maneuvering with=
 inches to spare inside, their engines snorting as they kicked up the flour=
like dust.

Yousseff Wakhian, a scrapyard worker wearing a gray jumpsuit and a cap with=
 a New York Yankees insignia, said that 60 to 100 trucks had come in that d=
ay from Iraq and 50 had left with loads of the scrap to be sold elsewhere.

Some of the piles contain items that might =97 or might not =97 have arrive=
d as part of legitimate scrap operations. There is stripped copper cable fr=
om a high-voltage electrical system, jumbled piles of tank treads, big engi=
ne blocks and crankshafts and thick steel walls connected to a door with le=
ttering indicating that it was part of a building at an airport.

Last year, there were widespread reports of looting of electrical transmiss=
ion lines and military bases, among other things.

But Muhammad al-Dajah, an engineer who is technical director Jordanian free=
-trade zones like the Sahab scrapyard, pointed with chagrin to piles of oth=
er items that hardly looked as if they belonged in a shipment of scrap meta=
l. There were new 15-foot-long bars of carbon steel, water pipes a foot in =
diameter stacked in triangular piles 10 feet high, and the large flanges he=
 identified as oil-well equipment.

"It's still new," Mr. Dajah said, "and worth a lot."

"Why are they here?" he asked rhetorically, and then said, referring to the=
 devastation in Iraq. "They need it there."

The scrap operation has not been without incident, Mr. Dajah said. A few mo=
nths ago workers cutting apart an automobile at Zarqa, another free-trade z=
one, set off a concealed bomb that killed one of them, he said.

An Iraqi truck driver at Sahab, Ahmed Zughayer, said the trip from Karbala,=
 where he picked up a load of tank parts that were still piled in the back =
of his truck, was insufferable because of delays at the Jordanian border.

"First time and last," he said when asked how often he had made the trip. "=
Seven days at the border being inspected. And here two days."

Mr. Zughayer said Jordanian military personnel had combed through the load =
and probed it with detection equipment. Officials at the atomic energy agen=
cy said that since the Rotterdam incident, radiation detectors at Iraq's bo=
rders had repeatedly picked up generally weak radioactive emissions from de=
ep within loads of scrap.

The agency said that in one incident on May 15, radiation detectors began c=
licking when a truck carrying a load of scrap stopped at the Habur border c=
rossing with Turkey; the truck was turned back.

Several Middle Eastern analysts said that the widespread traffic in Iraqi s=
crap did not have all the hallmarks of an above-board operation.

"What we are finding out in Iraq, there are gangs, some of them from the ol=
d days, some of them new with corruption, and they can get away with it," s=
aid Walid Khadduri, an Iraqi who is editor of the Middle East Economic Surv=
ey in Cyprus and was in the country as recently as January.

"It is really mayhem," Mr. Khadduri said. "There is no law."

Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst who has done business in Iraq =
under the oil-for-food program, said that there was in fact much talk in th=
e business community of deals "to ship new things under the title of scrap.=

Beyond what has been seen at the scrapyards, Mr. Kamhawi offered no specifi=
c evidence that those deals were taking place. But a former high-ranking Jo=
rdanian military official said that functioning pieces of, say, sophisticat=
ed electronics from surface-to-air missile batteries or precision machine t=
ools almost could not avoid being passed around with scrap, since it is so =
difficult to destroy such equipment completely.

The official also said there was far from just a single Jordanian scrapyard=
 doing a brisk business in Iraqi machinery and scrap. He said that only a f=
ew days before, he had seen nearly an entire Russian-made T-55 tank with Ir=
aqi markings, its muzzle cut off by a blowtorch, sitting on a flatbed truck=
 outside a steel plant near the road from Amman to the main commercial airp=

On a recent day, the plant, identified on a sign as part of the United Iron=
 and Steel Manufacturing Company, a Jordanian business, had three trucks wi=
th Baghdad license plates idling out front. At a tumbledown shack on the wa=
y toward piles of steel in the distance, a wiry, weathered security guard w=
ith a three-day growth of beard stopped a car carrying an American journali=
st and two Jordanians.

"No, you can't go in," said the guard, who identified himself as Azzam Tami=
mi. "I have orders."

A Jordanian asked Mr. Tamimi what was down among the piles of steel to warr=
ant barring visitors from the area.

"Nothing is in there," Mr. Tamimi said. "There is only destroyed Iraqi tank=
s from the war."

Douglas Jehl contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

Do you Yahoo!?
Friends.  Fun. Try the all-new Yahoo! Messenger

End of casi-news Digest

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]